The Other Reluctant Kirmse Groom

In October of 2020, I wrote the story of Louis Kirmse in the post titled, First Marriage – Age 61. As the title states, Louis was unmarried for 61 years of his life. And when he got married at such a late time in his life, his bride was 22 years younger that he was. You will discover today that Louis had an older brother who I think could be classified as another reluctant groom. That brother is today’s birthday boy.

Joseph Kirmse was born on January 18, 1873, so today is not only his birthday, it is a very special one. He would be celebrating his 150th birthday today. Joseph was the 3rd of 6 children born to Julius and Barbara (Krause) Kirmse. A descendant of the Kirmse’s who is a terrific family researcher and a friend of our museum, Dale Kirmse, has a family tree on Ancestry that includes a treasure trove of photographs. Many of them have been colorized. You will see plenty of them in this post. Here is a photo of Joseph’s parents.

Julius and Barbara Kirmse

Joseph, like all of his siblings, was baptized at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. We can take a look at the baptism record found in that church’s books.

Joseph Kirmse baptism record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Joseph is found in the 1880 census at the age of 6. His father was a farmer in the Salem Township. One more daughter would be born in the same year as this census.

1880 census – Salem Township, MO

Normally, when someone is born in the 1870’s, you can find them in only one census that can be viewed before they get married. That is because the 1890 census was burned in a fire. By the time of the 1900 census, these folks are well into their 20’s and have gotten married. This is not so with Joseph. He is found in several more census entries in the early 1900’s as a single man. The 1900 census, on the pages of that township that are so difficult to read, shows Joseph still living with his parents at the age of 28. There were 3 Kirmse brothers in this household who were all in their 20’s at this time. Two of them, Joseph and Louis, were working on their father’s farm, and the other was a carpenter.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

I am not going to follow my normal script today. I usually track one person up to their marriage and then pivot to discuss the person that they marry. Today, I am going to switch to the bride in this story well before the marriage. Joseph’s bride would actually be born not long before the 1900 census was taken. Her name was Martha Wilhelmine Kassel who was born on May 1, 1896. Martha was the daughter of Phillip and Magdalena (Hopfer) Kassel. She was the firstborn child in this family of 12 children that are listed in the German Family Tree. However, the last 4 children all were born and died on the same day. The first 7 children in this family were girls, and only one boy lived to adulthood. All of these children that were baptized have those records in the books of Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. Martha’s baptism record is shown here.

Martha Kassel baptism record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Martha is found at the age of 4 in the 1900 census. The entry below is actually one of the more readable ones from the pages of that Salem Township for that year. Martha’s father was a farmer.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

We see evidence of a convergence of a Kirmse and a Kassel when we look at the 1910 census. The Kirmse household and the Kassel household are found right next to each other in this entry. I have highlighted Joseph and Martha on this image. Martha was a teenager who had just been confirmed, and Joseph was already in his late 30’s. Martha was the oldest of 6 daughters in her family at this time.

1910 census – Salem Township, MO

The plat maps for Perry County that were produced in 1915 show that the farm owned by Joseph and Louis Kirmse bordered both his father’s farm (Jul. Kirmse) and the Phillip Kassel farm (P.H. Kassel).

Joseph and Louis Kirmse land map – 1915

In 1918, Joseph had a World War I draft registration completed despite being already 45 years old.

Joseph Kirmse – WWI draft registration

The 1920 census entry for Joseph Kirsme is even more interesting. Joseph’s father had died in 1915 (the year the plat maps were made), so he does not appear in this census entry. This household is made up of Joseph (age 46), his mother, his single brother, Louis, and Martha Kassel, who was a 23 year-old servant.

1920 census – Salem Township, MO

Joseph Kirmse married Martha Kassel on May 10, 1921. As you can expect, this wedding took place at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. The church record for that occasion is pictured here. I do not find it surprising that Joseph’s brother was a witness at his wedding (what we would call his best man these days). Martha’s younger sister, Lina, was also a witness (her maid of honor).

Kirmse/Kassel marriage record – Salem, Farrar, MO

We can also take a look at the marriage license for this pair.

Kirmse/Kassel marriage license

The wedding photograph of this couple is shown below.

Kirmse/Kassel wedding

Joseph and Martha had no children. We find this couple in the 1930 census. Joseph’s mother had died in 1920. This household consisted of Joseph and his brother, Louis, both in their 50’s, but this time Joseph was married to Martha.

1930 census – Salem Township, MO

Louis Kirmse married in 1938, so when the 1940 census was taken, we find these two brothers in different census entries, but they likely still farmed the same land since they are listed right next to each other. Louis and his wife, Anna (Weinhold) had their one child at this time.

1940 census – Salem Township, MO

The last census we can view for Joseph and Martha is the one taken in 1950.

1950 census – Salem Township, MO

Dale Kirmse has a collection of images showing only Joseph Kirmse. I will display them in the gallery below. I am pretty sure I have them in the correct chronological order. The thumbnails can be clicked to enlarge them.

I can also display a few photos that include other members of the Kirmse clan, including Martha.

William Kirmse, the ancestor of Dale Kirmse, moved his family to Alva, Oklahoma. That is why Dale Kirmse is the one who orchestrated the process of our museum getting the Alva church’s records in our research library.

Joseph Kirmse died in 1957 at the age of 84. His death certificate says he died at the Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville. It mistakenly says his mother’s name was Barbara Kassel, not Barbara Krause.

Joseph Kirmse death certificate

I can also display a pair of photos of Martha Kirmse.

Martha lived almost 40 years after her husband’s death. In May of 1996, she celebrated her 100th birthday. The photo below was published in a local newspaper to recognize her special birthday.

Martha died in August of 1996 at the age of 100. Joseph and Martha Kirmse are each buried in the Salem Lutheran Cemetery in Farrar.

I am the one who pinned the term “reluctant groom” on the two Kirmse brothers, Joseph and Louis. I suppose there were plenty of my family members and friends who would have once called me a reluctant groom. But thanks to my wife, I am a very happy husband. In the case of Martha, she ended up living more years as a widow than she did as a wife. I am sure that is not going to happen with my wife. She is younger than I am, but she is certainly not over 20 years younger. We have been married for 33 years. I know my wife is in good health, but she’s not likely to live more than 33 years longer, even if I died today.


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